January 19 I Sunday
“Then the man said, ‘Let Me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me.’ The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Jacob,’ he answered.” —Genesis 32:26-27
In the Old Testament, there are many stories of people dealing and talking with God. Some of these encounters result in God bringing them into a new responsibility. In Genesis, we see that with a man named Jacob, which means “twister.” The literal meaning of “Jacob” is “to grasp the heel” and Jacob was born doing exactly that—grasping the heel of his older twin brother, Esau. The idea of grasping the heel gives an idea of cheating, grabbing and pushing one’s own way through life, which is exactly how Jacob had been.
Jacob cheated his own brother out of his birthright in exchange for some stew. Then he received the blessing that goes along with the birthright by deceiving his own father who had lost his eyesight. But Jacob met his match when he was cheated by his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob wanted to marry Laban’s second daughter, Rachel, and worked seven years for her. On his wedding night, however, Laban deceived Jacob by bringing Jacob his oldest daughter, Leah, instead. When Jacob found out the next day, Laban rationalized that it was not customary for the younger to marry before the older. Laban promised to give Rachel as Jacob’s wife if he agreed to serve him for another seven years. While working for Laban, Jacob cheated him in return, by breeding sheep in such a way that all the weak sheep belonged to Laban and all the strong sheep belonged to him. Laban did not like getting all the weak sheep and made Jacob’s life difficult by changing his wages ten times. Finally, Jacob had enough and ran off in the middle of the night with his wives and children without telling Laban.
Jacob’s life was characterized by trickery and mendacity but all of that changed the night he encountered God. It was a wrestling match that lasted the whole night without an end in sight. God said, “Let Me go, for it is daybreak” but Jacob retorted, “I will not let You go unless You bless me.” Then God asked Jacob, “What is your name?” A strange question for God to ask as He knew exactly what his name was. Jacob answered and God said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome” (Genesis 32:26-28). No longer was Jacob known as a cheater, sneak, manipulator and liar but “Israel,” which means, “Prince with God.” God gave Jacob a new name, a new identity and a new character. Like Jacob, when we commune with God, He starts changing our name, our character, our behaviour and our whole life.
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for being a living God who sees my past, my faults and my shortcomings. I am grateful that in You I have a new name, identity and character. Praise You!